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Journalist receives death threat after reporting on missing billions

A man displays a copy of the
A man displays a copy of the "Hot Pepper" newspaper in a street in Monrovia, Liberia, 13 October 2017

ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

Philibert Browne, journalist and editor of the Hot Pepper newspaper, which has been reporting on a missing container of sixteen billion Liberian dollars [USD 104 million], has reported death threats from unknown individuals.

According to Browne, on 20 August 2018 an armed man visited his wife's store and made life-threatening comments, something that prompted him to call Liberia's Inspector General of Police to request protection for himself. He has also requested protection for his family who have also been threatened following the publication of the story. "My biggest worry is the safety of my wife and children who are being threatened with death and kidnapping," Browne says.

Following the revelation by Browne, the Liberian government has set up a committee to probe the matter. However, this development has not put an end to other cellphone death threats from faceless individuals using private numbers, according to Browne. The incident has led to the deployment of two dozen armed police officers at his residence for the past few days.

Browne says the threat is reminiscent of what happened to him during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, related to his paper's critical reporting. His Chronicle newspaper was raided and shut down on 14 August 2014 with the government citing "urgent national security concerns". It was reopened a year later.

The Center for Media Studies and Peace building, through its Executive Director Malcolm W. Joseph, has strongly condemned the harassment and terror tactics capable of causing physical and psychological injury to the journalist and his family.

Joseph is calling on the Ministry of Justice and relevant investigative apparatus to investigate the threats and ensure the safety of the journalist in his professional practice.

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